CONTEXT + PROCESS // Thursday, Sept 28  1:10-2:20pm (Rm 210)

Pattern Thinking: Encountering Indigenous Australian Painting
Anne Keener

Since the 1970’s an art movement in the Indigenous Australian context has steadily gained momentum and acceptance in the contemporary art world. The highly patterned canvases produced by Aboriginal painters simultaneously reveal and conceal aspects of a cosmology that has been passed down for generations. Yet these paintings, as instantiations of a particular painters’ belief system, are never the less affective toward an uninitiated viewer. The questions for this paper revolve around how paintings that are based on a cultural context outside of one’s experience carry an affective charge upon encounter. The paintings in the Indigenous Australian context consistently exhibit pattern as a dominant motif. It is in the realm of pattern thinking that a dimension of revelatory experience as theorized by twentieth century philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, comes into play. Whitehead describes qualities such as colors as a coming together of an aesthetic, emergent, relational pattern. In Whitehead’s philosophy of process, aesthetic value becomes a creative force in the universe.

In the presentation of this paper I will show examples of Australian Aboriginal paintings along with non-Aboriginal paintings and discuss the viability of dialogue between artists, artworks and artistic contexts with emergent, relational patterned processes using Whitehead’s aesthetic value ethics to bridge cross-cultural contexts.


Anne Keener is a painter and writer living in Columbus, Ohio. Keener earned a BA in Religious Studies and an MFA in Painting and Drawing at the Ohio State University where she is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Art. She is interested in the role of religious and philosophical questions in artistic practice. Keener is curating an exhibition in 2018 for the Urban Arts Space at OSU titled Pattern Thinking: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Collection of Tom and Cynthia Schneider.